Sculptor - Professor
Stephan Balkenhol has sculpted human figures from wood for almost 40 years. He decided to focus on figurative art during his studies at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg, as a divergent response to the abstract, minimalist, and conceptual approaches which were predominant in the 1980s.
Wood is his favourite material ; with great swiftness and dexterity, the artist chops, prunes, and shapes each block of wood from which the character and his pedestal will appear. The oak, poplar, or cedar wood he uses always comes from freshly-cut trees. His sculptures are never polished and bear the brutal marks of his work. Their appearance will then subtly change according to the transformation and aging of this living material.
His sculptures are influenced by the history of human representation, from the statuary art of Ancient Egypt with his hybrid characters (Giraffe-Man, 1995) to the statuary art of Greco-Roman myths, explored through the evocation of Atlas or Perseus (Perseus Holding The Head Of Medusa, 2018). The artist is also influenced by the polychrome sculptures of the Middle Ages and actually paints his own – except for the flesh, for which he prefers to leave the natural colour of the wood.
Stephan Balkenhol also uses ceramic or bronze. Even then, his sculptures bear the marks of his work. Often larger than life and most of the time represented standing up, his characters are however not really prominent or epic : they seem ordinary, and their inanimate, enigmatic faces leave room to various interpretations.
« My sculptures tell no story, even though they hide a secret. It is not for me to reveal it. It is up to the onlooker to find it out. » Stephan Balkenhol